Senegal’s four L-39NG jets will be delivered in 2020 and 2021, Aero Vodochody has revealed.
The company has also provided more detail on the armament and avionics the new aircraft will be fitted with. Speaking to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, Marco Venanzetti, vice president for the L-39NG programme, said Senegal’s aircraft will be fitted with AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles for an air-to-air capability. These will be mounted on the wingtips where the fuel tanks of previous L-39 versions were fitted.
Senegal’s L-39s will also be fitted with the Elbit Systems Targo II helmet-mounted system.
Senegal’s order for the L-39NGs, configured for light attack and training, was announced on 4 April. The contract will also cover the training of pilots, including conversion, instructor and combat training, maintenance personnel training, spare parts, ground support equipment and logistic support services.
In January, Aero started up the L-39NG pre-series production line. Aero is currently producing a total of four L-39NGs. The first and the fourth aircraft will be used for flight tests, the second one for static tests and the third for fatigue tests. The first flight of the new pre-series L-39NG is planned to happen at the end of 2018 with deliveries expected to start in early 2020. Full scale production is expected by 2022 with 16 units a year.
The L-39NG programme started in 2014. The aircraft is powered by a single Williams FJ44-4M engine with FADEC control and has five hardpoints for 1 200 kg of weapons (three more than previously). Other changes compared to the standard L-39 are wet wings without wingtip tanks, it has a 15 000 flight hour service life, lighter and stronger airframe and Health and Usage Monitoring System. The L-39NG uses 50% new parts and 50% parts taken from the existing L-39.
Aero Vodochody said that, after focussing on aerostructures, the Senegalese L-39NG sale represents the first international sale of new aircraft in 20 years.
At the moment the Senegalese Air Force doesn’t operate any jet aircraft. Its only ground attack platforms are old Mi-24/35 and Mi-17 helicopters. There were talks with Embraer in 2013, toward purchasing Super Tucano turboprops, but the deal was never finalized. But the four L-39NGs Senegal will receive, though being training aircraft, will feature five hard points for carrying weaponry, meaning they can easily switch to the light attack role.
Relations between the Czech Republic and Senegal are calm and friendly. The Czech diplomatic mission to Senegal reopened in the 2000s and official visits occur from time to time. In 2015 Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek received his Senegalese counterpart, Mankeur Ndiaye, to discuss strengthening bilateral relations. Economic turnover between the two countries is $30 million, placing Senegal among the Czech Republic’s top sub-Saharan partners. Also, much hope is placed in the Czech Agricultural University’s Institute of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture’s ongoing project to protect rare antelopes.